“City Shadows and a DIY toolkit for art in abandoned spaces”

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“A small but energetic non-profit, Mahatat has taken it upon itself to do two things since its inception in 2012: bridge gaps between contemporary artists and the public, and explore new spaces for art. Its main activities have centered around creating opportunities for artists to show their work in public spaces in Cairo and, perhaps more importantly for a country with such a centralized arts scene, beyond the capital, with a focus on Damietta, Mansoura and Port Said.

Egypt is full of abandoned spaces, but this new project’s pilot experiment took place in Port Said on July 16 and 17 in an derelict yard behind two buildings. One of these is the remarkably grand and ornate romanesque building known as Villa Fernand on Abdel Salam Aref Street — it’s among the city’s many neglected heritage sites and is slowly disintegrating.

Entitled City Shadows, the pilot was a two-day exhibition curated by photographer Nadia Mounier that included her work, old found objects (such as a Titanic soundtrack CD case, a toy gun and a tea cup), and selected works from local artists. It revolved around Port Said’s popular culture and inhabitants’ relationship with the city’s history and urban fabric. Mounier incorporated dim yet colorful lighting, a projected film, and an experimental performance by Cairo-based musicians Nancy Mounir on violin and Omar Mostafa on electronics. On the second night, musicians from Port Said came with their instruments to jam with Mounir and Mostafa.

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